“Since this happened right in our own community, children may process the events much more personally, especially those students who are in the school or who are friends with those involved," says Erika Rexhouse, director of school and community engagement for The Guidance Center of Westchester. "Our first job as adults is to reassure our children that all the grown-ups they know are trying to keep them safe.”
Rexhouse suggests limiting media exposure for the children. The overwhelming presence of social media in children’s lives adds yet another layer. Parents should be more vigilant than usual in monitoring their children’s accounts, and be aware of rumors or inflammatory comments regarding the situation.
Parents should be on the lookout for physical symptoms which someone may not think are related to the traumatic event. Be on the lookout for nightmares, the shakes, difficulty breathing for no apparent reason, loss of appetite, headaches and other physical complaints.
Here are suggestions to help children feel safe:
- Have a plan. Review the school’s emergency preparedness plan and talk about this plan with your children. Make sure they understand the plan and that they view it as a way to be safe and have power and control.
- Limit media exposure. If children ask questions, answer them honestly with words they will understand. Limit information to basic facts.
- Remind them that everyone is working to keep the community safe. Reassure them that it is highly unlikely that something will happen to them.
- Take care of yourself. You can’t care for your children if you are not feeling well yourself.
- Try to keep things as normal as possible. Stick to routines and keep up regular activities.
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